More than a billion people in the world live on less than $1.25 per day. One in six children under the age of 5 are underweight; one in four are stunted (a symptom of malnutrition); and one in eight people go to bed hungry. The global statistics are staggering, but there are two crucial reasons why reducing global poverty would benefit the U.S.
Firstly, it impacts national security. While there is no direct relationship between poverty and terrorism, however, extreme poverty, weakened establishments and endemic corruption can make frail nations vulnerable to acts of terror and criminal activity.
Reducing poverty, coupled with improving education, health and the economy of developing nations will lead to better governance and diminish the opportunity for terrorist or militant activities. Hence, it is of significant interest to the U.S. to promote global poverty reduction, as it enhances inter-government relations, reduces hostility, and protects U.S. national security.
Secondly, eradicating global poverty opens up new global markets. In 2000, 189 heads of government endorsed the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to reduce by half the number of people living in poverty by 2015. This goal was reached five years ahead of its target date.
According to The Economist, economic growth was the key driving force behind the reduction of worldwide poverty from 1990 to 2010. The three regions with the largest numbers of poor people indicated vigorous gains in gross domestic product after the recession: Annual gains were 5 percent in Africa, 7 percent in South Asia; and 8 percent in East Asia. However, GDP does not capture everything that matters.
The U.N. Development Program reiterated that economic growth alone would not reduce poverty unless it is inclusive growth. How would this impact U.S domestic economy?
In the age of globalization and world markets, the U.S. is unlikely to improve its sluggish domestic economy unless it chooses to concurrently invest in eliminating global poverty. Bill Gates, a global advocate for poverty reduction, believes that reducing global poverty and having a robust economy are not separate goals, but are complementary ones.
“If poor countries can’t feed, educate, and employ people, their problems will get worse and they will be a source of instability and deep suffering. To deal with these problems, we need robust economic growth,” Gates emphasized in his report to G20 leaders at the 2011 Cannes Summit.
He indicated that over the long term these countries would “become a key part of the global supply and demand equation.” This implied that investments made in reducing global poverty would help “expand global production capacity,” enable developing nations to “become important markets for global trade” and move in the direction of a dynamic global economy that benefits everyone.
President Obama said in the State of Union address, “Progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all.”